There are Japanese phrases that are deeply part of me. I feel alone or lonely when I don’t get to say these to anyone.
Today, I want to share a small story related to those phrases.
In Japanese, we have specific expressions when we come home or welcome someone home.
- ただいま Tadaima. I’m home.
- おかえり(なさい) Okaeri (nasai). Welcome home.
NOTE: You can drop the “なさい (nasai)” part to sound most casual and intimate.
I cover useful Japanese phrases in this eBook. It comes with MP3 (audio files).
In English, people say “Bye” and “Hi” as they leave or come home.
In Japanese, we say “Tadaima” and “Okaeri (nasai),” and they build bonds and a sense of “togetherness” among family members.
As a Japanese person, I grew up saying these things all my life, and they grew to be deeply part of me.
So, when I left Japan and started living in the U.S. by myself, I still kept saying “Tadaima” as I opened the door of my empty apartment.
And what happened?
A complete silence responded.
There was nobody there, of course, to return “Okaeri (nasai)” to me.
That was the moment I felt tremendously lonely. I realized I was away from my family and my country, and I was alone.
Eventually, I could no longer take the silence, so I started saying “Okaeri” to myself!
Watch this trailer. The main character is doing the same thing. (0:17 into the video) This is exactly what I used to do! 🤣
When I Married…
Later in life, when I married my American husband, “Tadaima” and “Okaeri” were the first things I taught him in Japanese.
He sometimes mixed up the two in the beginning (lol), but now he mastered them.
As a result, I regained a sense of togetherness at home. 😊
Interesting how such small greetings can affect you emotionally, right?
Language is deeply connected to the way we live and the way we feel. I realize it every single day as I live in a foreign land away from my country.
Japanese Phrases and Culture
I always share this small story with my students at college, and it somehow seems to help them remember the expression “Tadaima” and “Okaeri (nasai),” so I thought I would share it with you as well.
There are many more Japanese phrases that don’t exist in English. Here are other examples.
- いただきます。 Itadakimasu. I humbly accept. (We say this before eating)
- ごちそうさま(でした) Gochisoo sama (deshita). It was a feast. = Thank you for the food. (We say this after eating)
Some Japanese phrases don’t exist in English. In the same respect, some English phrases don’t exist in Japanese. (“Bless you,” “I miss you,” etc.)
The reason is that the two cultures perceive the world differently and hence, express things differently.
When you learn a new language, it is crucial to understand its culture as well.
I hope you enjoyed my little story.
ゆうこせんせい Yuko Sensei